Four years ago I was getting ready for high school graduation, trying to pack in time with my friends before we all went our separate ways. It’s amazing how much can happen in just four years. My best friend from high school and I were off to the same college and our other friends were only a letter away. We even had plans to take turns with a stuffed bear, “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” style. But I never saw that bear again, never received any letters and only speak to one of those friends now. My best friend transferred to a different college and I was left to make William Paterson my home on my own.
It wasn’t as sad as it sounds, though. I missed my best friend, but we still talked on the phone and brought each other notes and gifts when we visited. I made school friends pretty quickly. I’ve always been a “few close friends” kind of person, so I was fine with hanging with my roommate and our couple close friends most days, but I actually surprised myself with the amount of friends I had by the end of freshman year. I may not have been super close with all of them, but my dorm building really felt like a community. Just walking through the building, there was always a friendly face.
So much happened in my four years at William Paterson. I started as a Communication Disorders major but will be graduating with an English degree. In my four years I’ve had four roommates and six room changes. I’ve had five steady boyfriends and four shaky break ups. I’ve gone through many existential crises where I wondered where I was going with my life and made some alterations. I’ve lost and gained friends, slacked on some classes, stayed up late to get ahead in others. I’ve had great professors and some not so great ones. I started a club and even killed it. I’ve had three different jobs, all of which had their ups and downs. But most importantly, I lived.
The big things are what most people say to cling to. They are what shaped me and what made this time worth it. They are the learning experiences. I now have more of an idea of what I want to do with my life. I know who to trust and when to be skeptical. I’ve learned how to adjust when things aren’t going my way. I’ve learned how to live on my own. I know how to manage my time, but mostly how not to. I’ve learned responsibility and when it’s okay to have fun. All of these things are important and they are the backbone of my college experience. But that’s not all college was.
The lessons are important, but life isn’t a textbook of rules and bullet points. It's not about the diploma but what you take away with it. I’m not going to think back and remember a name and a date of someone who hurt me or the exact day I met a close friend. Instead I’m going to remember crying in the shower so my roommate couldn’t hear me. I’m going to look back and recall the frantic emails that I sent to that one professor to make sure I got the grade I deserved. I’m going to remember my friends staying up with me until I fell asleep, just so they knew I was okay. I’m going to remember surprise visits, getting lost in New York, laughing so hard we couldn’t get off the floor. I’m going to smile at how sharing a chair in a cramped classroom led to being inseparable for three and a half years. I’m going to laugh every time I think about how we fell off the bed together, landing in a painful heap. Things may blend together, like all of the game nights and movies, our late night study sessions and the more than occasional all-nighter, but the important parts will always stand out.
A lot can happen in four years; a lot of bad, a lot of good. There will be things I want to forget that I can’t, like holding my sobbing friend or realizing I should have studied more for that midterm. There will be things that I do forget that I wish I didn’t, like the nights we sang Disney songs until our throats hurt or every time we laughed until our stomachs hurt. But it doesn’t matter. It all happened and it all changed and molded me in a way that I never would have expected. I’ve been told that college is a time to find yourself, but I disagree. It’s a time to make yourself and be yourself. A lot can happen in four years. All that matters is what you with it.